Just at the point when Columbia needs in-depth political reporting, journalism is dying. It's not just dying here, we all know what a wide-spread phenomenon this is. The internet is killing print newspapers, ad revenue is down, and people don't read newspapers as they used to.
In Columbia, there's a little more to the story. I've been here since 1999 and the Patuxent Papers have always taken a rather quaint approach to delivering the news. It sometimes appears to be the, "Let's Not Make Any Waves" approach to journalism. How many times have a vast majority of residents turned up to support something, with a small vocal minority wildly opposed, and the paper reports, "Columbia Divided By New Issue."
Ownership of the paper may have changed, but this approach persists. Add to that a continuing reduction in staff and what happens? Factual reporting of news, the ability and willingness to dig for more than face value, is sharply compromised.
Case in point: the recent CA elections. Maybe ten villages are too much for one person to cover. But only four races were contested. Why weren't the issues in each village explored? I kept waiting serious news coverage of what our race meant in Oakland Mills. I'm still waiting. Reducing the entire election to a referendum on Symphony Woods is not only too easy, it's just plain untrue. But you wouldn't know that from reading the paper.
Throughout the campaign I continued to be surprised and impressed by how many people were reading the Flier. There is a hunger for real news about the New American City. Rather telling is this comment from a Thunder Hill resident, "I wish I could find out what's really going on from the paper. The only way I know what's going on in CA is by reading Tom Coale's blog."
The actual human beings who cover Columbia are young, dedicated, and smart. We don't get to hang on to many of them for very long. I don't even know if we'll get to hang on to journalism much longer, at this rate. What are we going to do? We need the real stories to be told. Believe me, there's some juicy stuff out here in the Colum-bubble. It might even sell some extra papers.
Oh, yeah. Um, well...
So, I've been thinking, what Columbia needs is a nice, small-town Society Column. Please let me know if you have out of town relatives visiting, are hosting a baby shower, or attending a student piano recital.
Maybe political news is just for the big cities.